Again and again in my public career I have confronted circumstances where I was told there was nothing I could do about a given condition: a city electric system sold to a giant private utility under indecent conditions. "Nothing you can do," said my top advisors. I saw something else, organized a civic movement and a three year struggle resulted in regaining for the people of my community a light system which recently observed its 100th anniversary. Two hospitals were to be closed. "Forget it," I was told. There is nothing you can do. I saw another possibility. Creative legal action ensued, the community rallied, and the hospitals were saved. A steel mill which provided thousands of jobs was about to be closed. Again I was told, "there is nothing you can do." Long story short, we organized the community, intervened in court, stopped the shutdown of the mill long enough for a buyer to emerge and that mill today is the largest integrated steel mill in the world.
There is a practical physics to civic involvement and action. Look deeply into the appearances of things. Deeper within is another possibility. Envision it, call it forward, act upon it, drawing upon that same elemental energy which comes from where the eternal first touched us and where we touched the eternal, where stars are born.
What I have learned from experience is this - - when you see a condition you desire to see change, when you seek to make something happen and you are told it is not possible - - that may be exactly the place to put your energy, to change the outcome. When you do, people will say a miracle occurred. We live in a world where miracles are waiting to be welcomed
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH-10), Progressive Democrat, was the oldest of seven children and was born in 1946 in Cleveland, Ohio to Frank and Virginia Kucinich. The family lived in 21 places, including a couple of cars, by the time he was 17 years-old.
He was elected mayor of Cleveland in 1977 on the promise to save the city’s municipally-owned electric system which offered customers significantly lower rates than the private utility. A year later, Cleveland’s banks demanded that he sell the city’s 70 year-old municipally-owned electric system to its private competitor (in which the banks had a financial interest) as a precondition of extending credit to the city.
The attempted political blackmail failed as did several assassination attempts.
The principled stand destroyed his political career. He lost his reelection bid. He was demonized as the mayor who threw Cleveland into default. Fifteen years later, the citizens of Cleveland - recognizing he had saved them hundreds of millions of dollars in municipal power bills and also forced the private utility to keep bills low to compete – voted him into the Ohio Senate. His campaign signs featured a light bulb and the expression “Because he was right.” In 1998 the Cleveland City Council honored Dennis for “..having the courage and foresight to refuse to sell the city’s municipal electric system.”
In 1996, Dennis unseated a two-term Republican incumbent. He has followed that narrow victory by winning 60 to 70% of the votes in the following elections. Much of those vote totals were achieved because of outstanding constituent services and his successful efforts to save a local steel mill, two neighborhood hospitals and 10th District cities a dramatic - and disruptive - increase in train traffic.
At the same time his reputation as a progressive leader in the Congress grew. He was voted the chair of the Progressive Caucus because of his passionate commitment to peace, human rights, workers rights, economic justice and the environment.
In 2002 the second great challenge of his elected career occurred. After analyzing the “evidence” presented by the Administration in its rush to folly in Iraq and actually reading the National Intelligence Estimate, he stepped forward to help lead 125 Democrats in voting against the blank check for the President to wage an illegal, immoral and ineffective war.
Speaking from the floor of the House some 140 times against the war and appearing on over 100 radio and talk shows was a risky political move. But it did not stop him. The neo-cons and their complicit friends in media engaged in a frenzy of caustic name calling. In Feb. of 2003 when Dennis explained on “Meet the Press” that oil was a key causal factor for the war and that our troops would be trapped in a costly door-to-door war, administration zealot Richard Perle insisted Dennis’ comments were “scurrilous” and “an out-and-out lie.” Richard Cohen of the Washington Post chimed in to agree with Perle calling a Congressman who saw no evidence of WMDs and did see oil as a cause for war a “fool.” Other “mainstream” opinion commentators called him a “clown” and worse for not seeing the clear evidence of WMDs.
For his tireless and courageous efforts he was awarded the Gandhi Peace Award in 2003.
In 2006 when Israel and Hezbollah were facing off, Dennis again stepped forward for peace. As the Administration gave a green light to Israel and the Republican Congress sat silent – again – Dennis warned that the conflict and the ensuing deaths would make peace even more intractable. And now as the Israeli and Lebanese governments teeter from public criticism, his words ring true.
It was not the first nor, hopefully, will it be the last time Dennis Kucinich ignored political dangers to do the right thing. After all, it is his life story.
Country: United States
Type: Prose Context: Speech Context Details: Commencement Speech
American University in Dubai
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Dubai, United Arab Emirates Uttered: 5
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